Monday, November 14, 2011
My Kung Fu is Better!
I took my first martial arts class this past weekend: Essential Kung Fu at Bo Law. Why? Well, I had spotted a kickass package deal on Bloomspot and couldn't resist. Also, at a deeper level, I recognized this as an opportunity to start strengthening my body and creating some of the structure / rhythm / discipline I've been lacking in my daily life.
As with any body movement or workout session, we began with a warmup - stretches, jogging, situps with legs extended upward, and closed fist pushups (ouch!). Then we moved into basic punches and kicks, all the while learning proper positioning of the limbs, the relationship between each movement and the breath, and generally why these & other aspects of Kung Fu are important when engaging with an opponent.
It was a fascinating and challenging process to start learning to "speak" this new body movement language. I was a bit shaky & awkward, which gained me quite a bit of extra help from the attending Si Hing ("male instructor"), though he promised not to pick on me too much since it was my first day. Admittedly, my kicks were a lot better than my punches; Master Koh even commended me while passing through our class (Very Cool). One thing that will be very useful is matching the feeling of each punch or kick to the metaphor invoked by its name; each move has a name related to some kind of weapon (e.g., arrow punch, cannonball punch), so that the body thus - both literally and figuratively - becomes the weapon.
(This would be a good space to delve into the subject of the spiritual warrior, but I I'll save that for another time.)
After class, it occurred to me that there are many similarities between Kung Fu / martial arts (a male-dominated practice) and the women's healing & empowerment work I've done over the past 3 years. Both get one into deep[er] "conversation" with one's body, increasing awareness of the body and how it is moving. Both have as a primary aim to cultivate strength from the core that is grounded in the root. Both explore the balance between expansion & contraction. So while Kung Fu is a very different 'dance' than I'm accustomed to, these connections allow me to explore that world through a uniquely faceted lens.
I'm reminded here of a past instance in which one of my brothers urged me to take martial arts instead of dance because the latter would be of no use if someone tried to attack me. Though his argument was/is valid, I discarded it at the time because I was decidedly more interested in enjoying myself just-because than preparing myself for potential battle. That makes me wonder about the possible de facto dichotomy between a female and/or "feminine" focus on an inner world that needs to be expressed vs a male and/or "masculine" focus on an outer world that needs to be fought against; and, if a reality, how much of that is "natural/biological" and how much of it is socially constructed & perpetuated. After all I, like most little girls, went to dance school to learn ballet and tap - not, like many little boys, to a martial arts school to learn karate or Tai Kwon Do. Only now in my adulthood can I distinguish that it need not be an either-or affair and that I have a choice in where to invest & cultivate my energies.
If I recall correctly, my class on Saturday consisted of just as many women as men. And one thing Sifu ("teacher/father" - practicing the terminologies!) Andre Bowen said that stuck with me is that we all have power, more than enough of it, but it's scattered and so we are there to learn how to focus & direct it. (Magick, anyone?) This is a simple truth that transcends gender, as we are all co-creators with the Universe.
There are different paths to God, power, happiness, self-actualization - each has value. So, at the moment, I am exploring this new path, while keeping a foot on those others that still serve my purpose. Rather than letting this be just an ephemeral experience, I am committed to this martial arts education as a gateway/pathway to ways of being that infuse my real world... all the while remembering to BREATHE and to PLAY.